Essential New Music: Sam Rivers Trio’s “Emanation”

Sam Rivers’ jazz journey was as long as it was extraordinary. Born in 1923, he toured with Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, recorded essential sides with Dave Holland and Anthony Braxton, operated one New York City’s key loft-jazz venues during the 1970s, and kept an avant-garde big band going in Florida, of all places, right up to his death in 2011. Rather than rely on the tender mercies of the music industry, he diligently documented himself, and his estate has recently selected Lithuanian label NoBusiness Records to turn Rivers’ archive into finished releases. 

Emanation is the first fruit of this partnership, and it’s an excellent start. Recorded in 1971, it offers two complete sets by Rivers’ working trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Norman Connors. A gifted multi-instrumentalist, Rivers moves easily between muscular saxophone, airy flute and stormy piano playing, sustaining a thread of invention that never goes slack. 

—Bill Meyer